If you’re curious about this topic, chances are you’re either looking to adopt a new pet cat or you’re worried about the neediness of one that’s already ruling your household.
No matter which group you fall into, my overall message to you is at its core the same:
Most cats do need attention; you cannot simply feed them, change their water, and go on with your day.
If you’re going to have an indoor cat, he or she is likely going to need substantially more attention than an outdoor cat might.
When all is said and done, however, a cat’s need for attention will never be so demanding that it’s impossible to fulfill, even if you’re the only person that will be taking care of and/or interacting with your cat.
Finally, in most situations where you ultimately feel you really cannot dedicate enough attention to a pet cat (say you work incredibly long hours), instead of advising you against getting a pet cat or advising you to re-home an attention-craving one you already have, I would instead advise you to adopt a second cat to keep the first cat company.
A feline companion is ultimately the only thing a cat should really need to fulfill a craving for attention and socialization.
Obviously, this is just my personal opinion, and you can feel free to correct me in the comments down below if you’re think I’m off base in any way shape or form.
I’ll be spending the remainder of this article breaking down why I think this way about cats and their need for attention; so if you’re curious about the reasoning behind my opinion, keep reading.
How Much Attention Do Cats Really Need?
Because of their sometimes stand-offish ways, cats seem to have developed a reputation that suggests they don’t need much attention at all. I don’t think this is a perfectly accurate picture.
No matter which way you dice it: cats are not “set it and forget it” types of pets like reptiles or fish.
From my experience, they also need plenty more attention than small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, or mice.
You cannot simply fill a food bowl, offer clean water, and clean after a cat to keep a feline as happy and healthy as can be.
They need stimulation – exercise and daily use of their prey drive – but they also need attention and socialization, which for the well being of any cat cannot be ignored.
Of course, if you compare cats to their highly attention-seeking rival most-popular-pet, dogs, they really don’t seem to need much attention at all.
And yes, there are times cats cannot even get along with one another – but that doesn’t automatically place them on the lower end of the need-for-attention spectrum when it comes to pets in general.
Based on my experience: some cats don’t need much attention at all; many cats appreciate attention, others crave it, and some – believe it or not – are downright attention whores.
How much attention any individual cat needs comes down to the particular personality of the cat you’ve got on your hands.
While you can sometimes guess the kind of personality a cat will have when you factor in breed, there’s still plenty of variance from one cat to the next.
If you’ve had plenty of experience with cats, but have never felt they really needed all that much attention, my guess is you’ve probably had much more firsthand experience with outdoor cats, which brings me to the next section…
Do Indoor Cats Need More Attention?
I definitely think indoor cats, on the whole, need plenty more attention than outdoor cats.
If you’ve only had outdoor cats before and think my assertion that cats can’t simply be fed, have their water changed, then ignored, it’s probably because your cat is getting attention and socialization elsewhere – outside with other cats or even with other humans around your neighbourhood.
Again, I’m not saying every cat needs a heck of a lot of attention, but attention cats do need, and if they’re meeting that quota with a few felines or humans they run into outside, it makes sense that they’d then be less needy when they came home.
With an indoor cat – the only options for interaction that cat has is with whomever happens to be inside.
Which can be completely fine, even if you’re the only person who happens to live there – if you’re home for long enough. If you’re not, times can get tough – and quite lonely – for a kitty.
And so, like I said in the intro, I’d think your best option is probably to adopt a second cat if you’re away for long hours and find your cat needs a little more attention than you’re able to offer.
Obviously, there will always be exceptions (I’ve met probably the most needy outdoor cat in the world – Sammy, and I know quite a few indoor cats who’d rather have little to no interference from humans or other felines most days – ehhem, Weiss).
That being said, I do feel if you’ve got an indoor cat you should be expecting a little more of a burden in the attention-giving department.
How Can I Tell If My Cat Wants More Attention?
Cats are tricky things to interpret. Sometimes a cat behaviour means one thing, other times the very same behaviour will mean quite another. Take purring for instance.
A purring cat is a happy cat – most of the time. But there are a slew of other reasons why a cat may purr, and some of these reasons are quite the opposite of happy – anxious and injured, for instance.
The best way to determine whether your cat wants more attention or wants something else (like stimulation, more exercise, or even to constantly be fed?) – follow the steps outlined in this guide.
Once you do you should know almost for certain if your cat is craving more attention than you can offer.
If he or she is definitely showing a need for more attention, your best option is to adopt a second, similarly tempered attention-loving feline into your home so the two can keep each other company in your absence.
In Your Experience – How Much Attention Do Cats Need?
Now it’s time to take to the comments section with your experiences – and please don’t hesitate here because I’m sure a lot of you have much more experience with cats and their need for attention than I do.
In your opinion – how much attention do cats generally need? Do you think they need more or less the same amount of attention people usually think? If not, do you feel people typically under- or over-estimate how much attention cats need?
Do you find there’s a difference in indoor cats vs outdoor cats in terms of how much attention they need? Have you met any exceptions to what you feel is the typical rule?
Have you ever had a cat who wanted way more attention than you could offer? How did you resolve the problem? If you’ve never had this problem yourself but could recommend a solution you think would work, please let me know in the comments down below!
Phillip James Tromblay says
I have 2 cat’s one male one female years apart in age but best of friends they love to play and fight with each other but when we are watching TV or bed time they love to cuddle up and sleep with mom and dad that’s my wife and I
Marcus Ray Dillon says
Nermal and Fluffinella are about four months old and like fair amount of attention but in their terms. When they don’t want to be bothered they’ll let me know…lol but I’m very thankful they have one another to give my various body locations a break.
JESSICA D DENNY says
My little guy is one and a half. He’s a sweet little buddy. He doesn’t like to cuddle much, but in the am, when I’m getting up for work I’ll set the alarm 5 mins early, so he can climb up on my chest and lay there for a few before I get up. Or, I usually pick him up and if I keep standing, he’ll snuggle on my shoulder for a little while. As soon as I sit down though, he’s gone! Lol
Elise Xavier says
What a lovely morning ritual! Avery loves to be held over my shoulder as well when I’m standing.
Wonder why your little guy flees as soon as you sit when he’s so snuggly in other ways! Maybe he hates being told where to rest haha.
Kat Foote says
I have fostered litters of kittens for about 7 years and find them all to be different..some are “mommy” cats and others are happy to play and sleep alone..I did read somewhere that 1/2 -1 hour a day of direct contact and play
contributes to a good relationship. I cuddle with each of my kittens individually and so get a sense of what they appreciate so I can share that with potential adopters.
Basically, its a “let them come to you” when they want contact. All my cats sleep on my bed so I figure thats a good 7-8 hours of close contact!!
Elise Xavier says
Oh my word – all of them sleep with you? That must be heaven 😉 And maybe a bit treacherous though still so happy if it’s a really hot summer’s day.
I definitely think it’s important to cuddle cats individually. I think any adopter must really appreciate the fact that you do so because it must help them get used to being cuddled and loved from an early age. And absolutely wonderful how you share with the adopters what each of their personalities is like.
My word, must it be hard to let go of some kittens!
sam plover says
I have a particular problem. A special needs cat who is just over a year. She came to HS with a kitten, yet under a year old herself, meaning she was pregnant at around 5 months old.
Adopted her three months ago, a tiny calico. I noticed that her tail was always moving, always…and the end of it often twitched. She also shook her head sometimes and had twitches along her spine.
We played with her because she seemed uneasy, needing a lot of attention. She absolutely had no idea about play until a found a way to really get her engaged, but soon realized that as soon as she became excited, the twitches were more severe and it is as if she backed away uncomfortably and would lick her legs etc.
I started researching and found Hyperesthesia in cats and she I would say is all that, but not overly severe. So I figured since no one seems to know exactly what it is,( although I think it goes hand in hand with her crazy hunt drive and the possibilty that she was a barn kitten, ) that I would try to engage her in play yet not make her condition act up more.
Tough balance, since if it does not make her nuts, she is simply bored and whiny.
If it wasn’t for her very delicate tiny body (probably the runt) I think she might fare well as a barn cat?
She will lunge up at walls, and when I look to see if there is anything there, there always is. It could be the tiniest dot.
So whatever her problem is, we can call it simply anxiety, but that does not help. I believe it is some form of a neurological issue, serving her well in some areas most likely and not so much in another.
I don’t even know if she would benefit being outside? Whether that would balance out with her nature?
We got her a buddy and thought long and hard. We were going to get her a crazy playful young one, yet what if that made it worse? So we got her a mature male, just a bit bigger than her and calm, yet he does like to really give it all he can during play, whether with us or by himself.
They do play together sometimes, mostly chasing and they also groom each other, and sometimes they play romantically which is a two way street.
I take her for accupuncture and her vet just put her on CBD drops.
So yes, she is an attention hog, but for different reasons. She wants something satisfied that we cannot help her with. So in the end, she basically gets annoying, whereas he is such a ‘normal’ type cat.
I honestly just get to the point where I pick her up and put her down in another location, and she leaves me alone for a while.
She is still just over a year, so I hope she changes, yet I can’t help but think she is just a little weirdo lol.
She seems not even playful kitten like, but rather….needy? All I know is that she is unique and not anything like other cats I have owned.
We mostly had large dogs, and I really find dogs a lot less needy. Because what I did with and for a dog had results. It satisfied them, if even just to be with them in the same house.
Here I got cats so I would not have to walk the dog or open the door 10 times per day, yet feel very busy and owned.
Funny thing started happening with the young one since I started to pick her up and move her away from me, she now comes and meows, yet runs away from me. Kind of a fear of me possibly….but I’ve tried calming, playing, holding her and walking, which she loves, but am simply running out of energy lol.
So the saga continues……
Elise Xavier says
It doesn’t sound to me like it’s just anxiety – I think you’re right that it sounds like a neurological issue. That line of engaging but not flaring up symptoms sounds incredibly hard to find… I wonder if there are any particular games you’ve played that manage to land her there?
That makes so much sense about the dogs being less needy because what you did satisfied them. I think a lot more of us than we care to admit spend our days *trying* to engage cats and not managing to get them to play like they obviously should be and on some level want to. Cats are certainly not simple creatures.
Avery does the whole comes and meows, then runs away, but he does it to “lure” me to play. He knows if I pick him up I’ll simply cuddle him, and so to let me know that’s not what he wants at the moment, he’ll dash off as if to say, “Yes I want you, but not for attention, for fun!” She might be trying to give you a similar message – or trying to keep your attention by running, which I’ve noticed is another thing cats sometimes do.
One thing I’ve learned with Avery is that, so long as he’s sitting in my lap, he’s usually very satisfied with no attention his way. So I’ve trained him to come sit in my lap whenever I’m at my computer or sitting down watching TV – activities I will be busy doing for long periods of time. I did this by drip feeding a piece of kibble or two every 10 minutes until he falls asleep in my lap, and now he associates me sitting at these places as a sort of invitation to come cuddle. Not sure if that would help, but basically my advice is to find ways she can be with you without bothering you and encourage her to come to you during these times to fulfill her need for attention. Again, not sure if this helps but in personality, she sounds a lot to me like Avery – always wanting her human and not at all easy to engage in play.
The Swiss Cats says
Great post ! We agree, even outdoor cats need attention. Cats are convenient, and they usually sleep when they are bored… Purrs
Elise Xavier says
They do usually sleep when bored – good point 😉
Eastside Cats says
We thought that Angel didn’t want to play, since she’s been ignoring toys and playthings for years. But once Chuck passed and Manny and CB joined the family, she’s been enjoying a lot of play time! The two young males are maniacs, and they’ll chase and fight with each other, but Angel has only us. So, we make time a couple of times a day to play with her, and she really enjoys it.
Elise Xavier says
It’s strange how they change unpredictably isn’t it? I’m impressed that she’s been playing a lot more these days. Good for her! Nice that the other two keep each other busy so you can give her some one-on-one time 🙂
Mary Bragg says
My sister has a cat that she’s taken care of since it and his brother were babies. She is basically mommy and fed them from a bottle and burped them. The one has since died but Otis is still around and approaching 15 years old.. He’s a Velcro kitty. He’ll climb up in her arms, including over her shoulder, to get in her arms. She has Fibromyalgia so can’t hold him for as long as he wants her to. He won’t do it with anyone else.
My cat, Pretzel, goes through moods where she’ll curl up on the top shelf of her cat tree and the decide the next day, she wants petting. She’ll climb up on my chest and curl up between my head and my tablet and demand attention. I sleep on my back and I’ll wake up and she’ll be in my lap, curled up and asleep since I don’t move much when I sleep.
I had a cat from the time she was weaned until she died of old age at 19. When it was chilly, she liked to come up and put her cold nose on the back of my neck so I’d lift the covers, then she’d go under the covers and curl up against my legs. We had another that would get up on the other side on top of the covers.
So different cats with different personalities.
Elise Xavier says
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up – I die from all the sweetness. Yes, each cat has a different personality for sure.
At the end of the day, I think a lot of cats do really enjoy sharing these warm moments with their humans, and while each of them will have different preferences with regards to how they want it, I do think they overall do all like the attention that their human companions afford them.
Again, thank you for sharing their personalities with us. They each sound like such wonderful pets. Boy do our cats make our lives happier! Especially in all the little moments like these.